Mistreatment and abuse have become taboo in American culture, but one place where it still happens too often is the workplace. Researchers say 60 million Americans are affected by it.
Several years ago the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees conducted an internal survey of members and found 1-in-4 had either experienced or witnessed bullying in the workplace. The group then worked with state lawmakers to draft a statewide policy against bullying.
Becky Hillestead is the state program administrator for the Minnesota Department of Corrections and was the target of a workplace bully. She said it’s important to stand up for yourself. In her case she joined co-workers in her office to file a complaint against a supervisor – who eventually was removed from the job.
“Which I think really helped our case in the long run because it wasn’t just like her vs me or him vs her,” Hillestead said. “It was us as a whole saying this behavior is not OK and we need this to stop.”
Who bullies, Who is targeted
It is estimated that 19 million Americans are bullied at work, and another 19 million are aware of abusive conduct in the workplace. Seventy percent of perpetrators are men; 60 percent of targets are women. Hispanics are the most frequently bullied race, and 6-in-10 workplace bullies are bosses.
Dr. Gary Namie, co-founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute, said bullying of children or spouses and partners is no longer tolerated in society, but at the workplace people tend to look the other way out of fear of losing their job. He said targets of bullies can experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and health problems such as high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome and other stress-related disorders.
“It can take a bully’s target months to even recognize that this toxic, harsh, hypercritical world is actually unrelated to work and unacceptable,” Namie said.
Minnesota’s “Respectful Workplace Policy,” issued in 2015, prohibits disrespectful and unprofessional behavior in all state agencies.
More information is available at MAPE.org.